St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago

“O kay, Second City is sold out, but there’re still seats at this other improv club I know, but we should get going early because the St. Patrick’s Day traffic is going to get a little nuts.”

So said Perry Marshall, my stalwart chum who is literally the guy who wrote The Book on Google advertising. And then he wrote The Book on Facebook advertising.

A few years ago I was lounging languidly in his upstairs office in his house in Chicago, and as foretold, it was St. Patrick’s Day. There were five of us there for what’s known as the Four Man Intensive (albeit 5 this time) an elite business development think-tank and mastermind, primarily for online businesses.


Good question. What was I doing there?

These meetings are meant to dissect attendee’s Adwords, Adsense, Content Network ads, and all kinds of interwebby things that glazes my eyes and makes my mind wander. The Spotty Internet Trolls™ had got us into lots of stuff over the past year, so maybe they should’ve been at this meeting, because I don’t get the half of it.

The people in this meeting were sharp and they knew their stuff. The technical jibber-jabber they were throwing around was so far beyond me they might as well have been speaking Vulcan. And as these were computer guys, they may well have been.

I may not have known what they were talking about, but I could do my best to pretend I did.

Whenever anyone says anything, nod sagely, purse your lips and cross your arms. Squint off into the horizon and blink rapidly from time to time. When someone makes a statement, chime in with something haughty like “Are you sure, or is that an untested assumption?” Then, gauging when one of the smart guys is going to comment, jump in and say “Well here’s the thing about…oh, sorry, it looks like Perry and I had the same idea – you go ahead Perry…”

Properly motivated by a complete lack of knowledge, one can keep this up for days, apparently.

For my turn, all I could come up with was something I saw on a Bugs Bunny cartoon “Well, whatcha gotta do, Doc – and I had to refrain from making Bug’s carrot chewing sound – is find out what they want, and give it to them!” Over the next few minutes, I wowed the assemblage with my ability to, and I quote, “make it all so simple!” Of course you, my dear reader, will immediately spot that the reason it’s so simple is that I haven’t a clue how to make it fancier.


There are worse places to be on St. Patrick’s Day than Chicago.

I had meant to slow down my traveling that winter, and I did pretty well. I like being new places and doing new things, but it’s getting out of hand when you know that:


  • the best Japanese curry is in the United Terminal in San Francisco
  • the most authentic taco’s available in any airport are in Denver
  • how to get a complimentary upgrade (hint: dress up and waggle those eyebrows)
  • and that on the Embraer 175 jets, the BEST seats on the plane are row 5 seats C and D – if you can snag both seats in this row, you’ve got more room than first class.

This time I got a direct flight to Chicago that left at noon, which is completely unprecedented. The previous 4 times I’d been to Chicago I’d had to fly through Toronto, even overnighting it at Pearson (long story).

No surprise to anyone reading this, but I’m not a morning person. And when one has to get up at 6:00 am (5 am to me) to make a morning meeting, a sort of earnest paranoia can grip you: you NEED to get to sleep, because you NEED to get up.


The problem with hotels is the way they make the beds.

I like things loose and flowing. I may decide to jut a leg outside, I may want both legs out and the covers tucked under my chin, I may want to toss a leg over the top and wind myself into a crepe.

In fact, I kind of reenact my own personal zodiac when I sleep; there’s the Starfish, the Statue of Liberty, the Champion, the Can-Can, the Sprinter, the Cannonball, the Swan Dive, and my personal favorite, the Highland Fling.

The Colonel prefers to sleep at attention. (She denies it, but I know that when I’m not there and she has to get up for a pee, she makes the bed before she gets back in.)

I even like to sleep with my feet hanging off the end, but hotels sort of spot-weld the edges in, and you can throw your back out with all the untucking.

And why don’t they go all the way round?

They tuck in the sides, but not at the top or bottom, which, I suppose, saves the maids having to tuck the top and bottom in.

And none of them use fitted sheets anymore. They kid themselves that they’re making things neat and tidy by giving you a sheet, a liner thingy, another padded something or other, a fancier sheet-looking thing that isn’t quite a sheet, then the upper sheet, a blanket, then the doubtful polyester thing that goes on the top.

And where the hell are you supposed to lie in all that? I’ve sometimes gotten in and out of beds 6 times trying to find the right layer.

Assuming that you manage to slide into the right strata, you find that because you spent 15 minutes trying to untuck the damn thing, the bottom layers have got all bunched up and have made irritating ridges and bumps. Then you have to get up and spend another 15 minutes trying to smooth out the mess by running round the bed tugging each side.

And then, because nothing is tucked in at the bottom or the top, as you ease back in you discover to your horror that your bare hide is somehow making direct contact with a hotel mattress…gah!

So of course as I was finally getting comfortable, a beast of a cricket or something began to chirr, and it yanked me back from the cusp of sleep like a bungee.

And you know how it is; you get all worked up waiting for the next chirr, nerves ablaze with teeth clenched and fistfuls of sheets.

If the damn thing kept up a steady tempo you could ignore it, but they stop and start, presumably because they like the sound of our curses and teeth gnashing.

Something must’ve come along and ate the bug because it eventually quit the Town Crier routine.

Sleep, however, was fitful.

Every time I moved, the bottom sheet leaped off a corner and wadded up somewhere underneath me, once more exposing my parts to the bare and ghastly hotel mattress.

I think I managed about 3 hours sleep that first night, in 6 and 7-minute increments.


Anyhoo, as it was St. Patrick’s Day, Perry wanted to take us out on the town.


Owen in front of a not-very-green-river

We dined at an excellent Italian restaurant downtown, and I somehow ended up in the kitchen yukking it up with the staff, and before we got chucked out we went to go see the green-dyed river, but we’d apparently missed it.

Then we went and found the improv club where someone on Perry’s staff had found us in lieu of Second City. I confess that I couldn’t get on whatever wavelength these artsies were on, but I did my best to get into the mood by the liberal application of St. Paddy’s beers.

Nick and Tom from Toronto, Perry Marshall, and Owen

The next afternoon

found me wedged into a seat on the plane ride home. I usually have pretty crappy luck on flights, both with routing and with seating. I always try to get an empty seat next to me, and about a third of the time I manage it, but this flight was full and I watched the people shuffling down the aisle and dreading who might end up sitting next to me.

Past flights have included the usual:

  • screaming children
  • circus sideshow acts
  • fat sweaty guys
  • people who’ve feasted on garlic all day
  • cougars wearing so much perfume you could see it
  • academics who’re cascading with dandruff
  • pompous types with the sniffles that refuse to just blow their damn nose and keep recycling the same half teaspoon of snot every 30 seconds
  • and the chatty types who refuse to take the hint, and insist on telling you all about their colitis or something.


I was interrupted in my mulling with a bored-sounding “Excuse me, can I squeeze in?”

I looked up to see a young, 20-something hottie with big blonde hair, big heels, big voluptuousness, unconvincing eyebrows, and a tank top that, had there been more of it, might’ve cast as much shade as a washcloth. She was carrying a brown paper shopping bag in one hand and hugging a tremendous teddy bear in the other, and while she wasn’t afraid of the makeup, she was pretty in a claxoning, horn-honking sort of way.

This was so unprecedented that I asked, “Are you sure this is your seat?”

She snarked “Yes” at me and stood back so I could stand and let her in.


I’ve never got to sit next to The Hot Chick on a plane… not once.

Now don’t misunderstand me, I’m no letch, cad, creep or philanderer.

I’ve been spliced to The Colonel for 200 years and have a completely unblemished record of staunch fidelity. But c’mon, given one’s druthers, what red-blooded male wouldn’t welcome a Hottie as a seatmate?! Just sayin’.

As I stood to let her to the window seat, I beamed around the cabin, catching several grudging nods from the other males not so blessed.

As we got settled, she quickly dismissed me with an “Oh great, I have to sit next to the large-old-guy” eye-roll, but I didn’t mind.

I turned and looked up & down the aisle again with a smile of the highest wattage, even catching a thumbs up from a teenage kid a row back and across.

She made it abundantly clear through body language and bearing that there would be no conversation on the flight, and that was okay too. She looked put off, uncomfortable, and mildly angry.

Whatever. I win.

On closer inspection – carried out very carefully and discreetly – it turned out that my seatmate wasn’t in her early 20’s as her getup and manner would have one believe: she was in her mid to late 30’s, and was fighting it hard. There were the small wrinkles forming around eyes and mouth, and her skin had the slightly frosted look that affects some female smokers. Her hands looked older than mine.

So the deriding eye-rolling directed at me wasn’t age-related derision, it was ordinary derision …?

Of course, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being in your mid to late 30’s; I’ve been there myself and can recommend it to anyone. But seriously, a teddy bear?!

I’d bet she was old enough to have kids old enough to have outgrown teddy bears…


Once airborne

she hugged herself and bent over in an apparent effort to get comfortable. I quickly took back the armrest – no reason for everyone to be uncomfortable – and got back to my reading, trying not to smile.

At about the halfway mark, she asked the flight attendant for a bag with some ice in it. The FA and I exchanged a quick, puzzled glance before she fetched some.

The Hottie took the ice, massaged the bag flat, and with a flourish like a magician showing there was nothing up his sleeve, thrust it down her cleavage!

I looked away. I blinked. I snuck a peek to make sure I saw what I thought I saw. I scratched my jaw. I looked away again. I shook myself alert. I a-hemed politely “Um…I don’t mean to pry….”

“Oh” she said, realizing that this must look strange. She leaned over and said in a stage whisper “I just had a breast augmentation, and I’m really sore!”

“Well…ah…good for you!” I said, passing a finger around the inside of my collar. “We all, ah, appreciate you taking one for the team!”

She giggled girlishly, then went back to her bent over hug.


After an hour, I asked, “Isn’t that ice painful on your skin?”

She leaned back, blinking away sleep, and I got treated to my very own wet t-shirt contest.

I immediately turned red as an embarrassed beet, averted my eyes, and alternated between polite gasping and thin coughing.

I turned back to the kid behind and saw murderous, jealous rage on his face.

The Hottie excused herself and strode luxuriously to the lavatory, trailing her index finger along the tops of the men’s seats, causing much sensation throughout the plane.

Standing there, I passed around another beaming smile – this time with more smarm to it, and collected the mixed praise and scorn of the entire aircraft. I even bowed slightly.


After landing and clearing customs…

I noticed that The Hottie had made it through the line first, and was several paces ahead of me. She tippy-tapped over to an oily, bored, weasel-looking guy who was leaning against a large concrete pillar. This oily dude could’ve passed for a weather-beaten Sean Penn who’d just come from trying out for one of the thugs in a production of Grease, with the added attraction of an unsettling 70’s Burt Reynolds mustache.

The Hottie approached him with open arms, and he made the matching motions, as one does, but as she got to him he said “Hey hey!” and vigorously honked her new acquisitions with both hands.

I could’ve told the ass it was a bad idea…

She let out a leonine roar and reacted with a giant roundhouse slap that got him square in the eye!

Oily’s head flew back and hit the concrete pillar with that identifiable hollow-melon sound that occurs when skull meets cement.

The next few moments looked like one of those mating dances of various birds that you see on the National Geographic Channel.

She was bent over, hugging herself, making low hooting sounds, and hopping in circles around her stationary left foot.

He looked like a marionette trying to surf with only half his strings working. His knees kept buckling, and he alternated between wild semaphores for balance and trying to clutch at the pillar behind him. At first, he held his head as if desperately trying to keep bits from falling off, but then he repeatedly shook it while slurring “blubb-blubb-blubb”. In between head shakes he’d stop dead still and open his eyes as wide as possible, then slam them shut again; his left one watering freely.

And from the bridge of his nose, across his cheekbone and up into his collapsed hairdo, was a red and perfectly vivid imprint of The Hottie’s hand.

I strode past the spectacle as others gathered ’round. Then I ransomed the minivan out of the parking lot and drove home to Spruce Grove, chuckling the whole way.

The Colonel met me at the door, which was also notable, as she’s usually in bed when I get home, and she asked how my flight was.

“The flight was okay, but the floor show was great!”

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  1. Jasmine Hewitt

    I would have paid money to see this!! Probably make a good short comic strip as well!

  2. Mike S.

    LOL! This story was hilarious! I have been on flights but never once sat next to a woman fresh from a boob job. I think I would have been one of the idiots filming the guy getting retaliated against. What kind of moron would think that is okay to do? I actually read a few of your other stories and they are all great. Keep up the great work! I feel like you are the kind of man I could have a beer with. Cheers!

  3. Anita Ayela

    Loved it! Yes, I too get pissed off at the tucking-in-tight of the sheets in a hotel room. I mean, how can one sleep like that! I am like Costanza and always remind the room service to not tuck in!!

    I could visualize the ‘floor show’ of the man and the woman in the airport! Keep writing!

    • The Pencilneck

      And they always look at us like we’re weirdos!

  4. Henri

    As I read this, I could relate to that kid sitting behind you! 🙂


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